Ryse: Son of Rome is a brutal and enchanting opportunity to hack and slash your way through countless enemies as you take on the role of a Roman soldier at the peak of the empire’s dominance across modern day Europe.
While the slashing might be mindless at time, and the action sequences repetitive, there is no doubting the gruesome nature of the game stands as a foundational introduction to the next generation of gaming. The visual appeal and emphasis on zoomed-in cut scenes show off the potential of the next generation of gaming, while telling a short story that fits as a proper introduction to the new console.
By no means is the tale an epic one, nor is the character depth one to be particularly proud of. On both fronts, the story of Marius and the depth of his character is simply mediocre. Yet through that mediocrity there is a simple pleasure. It’s the type of game one plays when you want to take a seat on the armchair and hack and slash your way through countless enemies.
Launch titles have a history of being simple or basic introductions to the potential of the new consoles. Ryse presents some of the graphical prowess but little else. The controls are simple and build on the structure made popular by the Arkham series with a fast and heavy attack, and a block/evasive maneuver. In Ryse, the combination of blocking and attacking is seen in the weaponization of the Roman shield. Color coded highlights indicate which type of attack is needed to perform special attacks, and a combination of all attack-types turn Marius into a killing machine.
One interesting piece that stands out in the development of the story-arc is how the tale of the warrior princess Boudicca is represented. The majority of modern historical texts of the Britons and Celts were carried over by their Roman conquerors. Overall, it feels that the story of her failed rebellion and warrior prowess were well interpreted, at the very least it humanizes her in a way that is often misunderstood in history books.
The online play attempts to create an action-slashing game with a similar development heirarchy to popular first-person shooters. Additional ranks and combat experience result in armor and weapon upgrades and unlocks that make the player go from a lowly barbarian gladiator to a fearsome god-like warrior. While the online game modes feel repetitive, it is a reflection of the repetitive nature of the single-player game style.
I played through the game once, and I felt it was satisfactory. It’s also a title I likely will not revisit at least for quite some time. There is no pull, and no continuation to keep me coming back, so it stands as a pleasant introduction to the next generation of gaming, a fun and visceral ride, and little more than that.